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The desire to mitigate COVID-19 spread has driven travel restrictions at many companies. In the electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry, this is increasing the number of virtual meetings. While videoconference calls among team members who used to meet face-to-face is commonplace, introducing customers to a team and a factory they’ve never visited is much more complex. The Elk Grove Village (EGV) facility team is developing a virtual audit process that can be customized.
“We want to create a process that makes the customer feel as though they are actually in the room. And customers who have never been in our factory want to be able to see processes running in enough detail to assess our competencies,” said Marytherese Walk, EGV’s Director of Quality.
The standard format has two parts: a systems and quality documentation overview done with shared screens in the conference room and a factory tour that walks the customer from receiving through relevant production processes and shipping.
The process can vary based on customer needs. For example, one upcoming audit combines an initial customer audit with a prototype production run.
“The new customer is a division of a company that we are already doing business with so they’ve placed the prototype order prior to doing an audit. We’ve provided them with credentials into our Score system that is letting them track raw materials status, order status and shipping history already. The virtual customer audit will address their need to perform a typical sourcing audit plus enable us to discuss lessons learned during the prototype run,” said Kevin O’Neill, Program Manager.
If the prototypes are in production the same day as the audit, the customer will be able to view that production process. If not, a demo of PCBAs going through SMT, AOI, x-ray, manual assembly and inspections will be shown. An internal new product introduction process (NPI) has already been performed and the NPI team will go over that part of the process. Operator visual aids and shop floor control systems will also be included in the tour.
“We’ve customized this tour based on an initial call with the customer to determine what they wanted to see. Audits have been part of my job for many years. Our team is well prepared. While the modality is different, the audit structure will be very similar to what would be done in a face-to-face environment,” added Marytherese.
Technology plays an integral role.
“We are using Microsoft Teams for our videoconferencing platform and it easily supports both parts of the audit. Our internal systems strategy is also helpful because it is easy to access our centralized quality management system documentation and real-time project status information,” added Kevin.
There can be challenges.
“There can be bandwidth issues among different regions. We strategize the best way to address those pre-meeting,” said Kevin.
The team will get lots of practice. Two more customer audits are already planned for January.